Monday, April 30, 2007

Purpose Driven Presbyterians – Report 4

I attended last week’s Purpose Driven Presbyterians conference at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Satellite Beach, Florida. There were three seminars for conference attendees:
  • Foundational Seminar: For churches interested in seeing how the Purpose Driven model can work for Presbyterian Churches.
  • Making the Transition Seminar: For churches that have made the commitment to Purpose Driven ministry and have been in the process for less than two years.
  • Breakout Seminar: For churches that have been in the process for more than two years.

I was attending the Breakout Seminar.

The most widespread concern by most participants was the age of their church members (this was discussed in a previous post). Over and over again I heard pastors and elders ask, “How do we go about starting a contemporary worship service?” The hope is that younger families will attend with a change in worship format. The flippant answer was, “Very carefully!” The proper answer is, “There is no single formula for starting a contemporary worship service.” The true answer is, “Don’t expect any help from the PCUSA!”

Changing worship style does not guarantee an increase in worship attendance. However, doing the same old thing for a plateaued or declining church almost guarantees more of the same.

The first step in Purpose Driven ministry is to change the DNA of the church. The DNA of the church is what is at the core of the church. Most churches give very little thought to the church’s DNA—they try to be all things to all people. I use to attend a church like this and it was very frustrating. If the pastor preached a “biblical” sermon the “progressive” side of the church would complain. If the pastor preached on social justice without an evangelistic component then the “biblical” side of the church would complain. A pastor never lasted more than five years at that church—it was too frustrating. At Evergreen we welcome everyone but we are also very clear about our basic beliefs and core values. These are our DNA and WILL NOT change. If a person wants a “progressive/liberal” church experienced then they will be happier at a Presbyterian church about 8 miles away.

Changing worship styles without changing the church’s DNA is like a 95 year old person getting a face lift. The person is still old to the core—even with a face that’s skin is drum tight.

To revitalize a church requires the hard work of looking at what is at the core of the church and its beliefs. This is why it is easier to start a new church than to transform an existing church. It can be done—it just won’t be easy.


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